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This is an evolving website and Table Tennis Community. Your suggestions are welcome.

Want a daily injection of Table Tennis? Come read the Larry Hodges Blog! (Entries go up by noon, Mon-Fri; see link on left.) Feel free to comment!

Want to talk Table Tennis? Come join us on the forum. While the focus here is on coaching, the forum is open to any table tennis talk.

Want to Learn? Read the Tip of the Week, study videos, read articles, or find just about any other table tennis coaching site from the menu links. If you know of one, please let us know so we can add it.

Want to Learn more directly? There are two options. See the Video Coaching link for info on having your game analyzed via video. See the Clinics link for info on arranging a clinic in your area, or finding ones that are already scheduled.

If you have any questions, feel free to email, post a note on the forum, or comment on my blog entries.

-Larry Hodges, Director, TableTennisCoaching.com

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 12:06
June 23, 2011

Those topspin drills

When practicing, most players start off most drills with a simple topspin serve so they can get into the drill, whether it's a looping drill, a footwork drill, or some combination or other drill. But in a match, how often does a rally start that way? Far more often rallies start with someone opening by attacking against a backspin, the most common type of serve. So if you are relatively consistent in these straight topspin drills, you should move to a more advanced version, and start the drill by serving backspin, your partner pushes it back, you attack (normally by looping the deep pushes, flipping the short ones), and then continue with the drill. If you want to get better, you need to both push yourself with more and more difficult drills, and do drills that match what you'll face in a match.

Marty Reisman plays lobby pong

Yes, the flamboyant two-time U.S. Men's Champion passes the time ponging in a hotel lobby (1:21). And here...




Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 11:59
June 22, 2011

Sun Ting and Jeffrey Zeng Xun practice session

Had a fascinating time watching these two train together yesterday as they prepare for the U.S. Open. Sun (rated 2730) is here for much of the summer, and is seeded fourth in Men's Singles at the Open (which starts in about a week), while Jeffrey (2612) is almost the same level - he's way out of practice, as he lamented during his first serious practice session in some time. (That's what happens to players who become coaches.) They spent most of the session taking turns feeding multiball to each other. How many of you do that, as opposed to just hitting?

Sun Ting ("Sun King"?) is a lefty with short pips on the backhand. He's basically a put-away machine on both sides. He's one of those players who absolutely rips his forehand. His backhand is like Shao Yu's, a top New York player also with a great pips-out backhand smash. Together, there's no safe place to put the ball. Add in great serves, and you see why the 2730 rating is probably way too low. The rating actually comes from playing in the North American Teams back in 1999 - when he was 15! He's now 27...




Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 11:46
June 21, 2011

Serious Goofing Off versus Non-serious Goofing Off

Some players simply do not understand the advantage of SGO (Serious Goofing Off) versus NGO (Non-serious Goofing Off, with apologies to numerous Vietnamese players). In SGO, you are simply goofing off, and besides insulting your opponent, you are not only not helping yourself, you are developing bad habits. However, SGO can actually be valuable. For example, I saw one of our junior players play a lobber by constantly faking a smash and then just patting the ball back. I pulled him aside and said, "If you are going to drop shot his lob, then try to drop it for a winner." In other words, instead of just patting it back, he should go for a side-spin chop block, and try to double-bounce it so the lobber couldn't even get to it, or had to lunge. Another example: If you are going to lob, try to win the lob point with heavy spin (both topspin and sidespin), basically a high loop. Another example: If you are going to just return the serve without attacking it, then, well, do something serious with it - fake one way and go the other, and try to win the point with a "weak" return. Aim...




Monday, June 20, 2011 - 12:57
June 20, 2011

Games against beginning/intermediate players

Because of a bad back, I've been playing an extraordinary number of "matches" against beginning and intermediate juniors in our junior session. I put "matches" in quotes because, well, they are beginning and intermediate players and aren't exactly going to challenge me at this stage in their development. Or are they? I started setting rules to equalize things. For example, I might have to push every serve to the player's forehand. Or even pop up every serve to the forehand. You get the idea. Suddenly a lot of close games! (Haven't lost any yet, but some good points.) One thing that came off well was when we played some straight backhand-to-backhand matches, where I'd spot five points. We'd put a box on the table to mark the middle, and any ball that hits the box or goes to the forehand side is a lost point. Then we go at it, backhand-to-backhand. Some really vicious points! So next time you're at your club and there's some "weaker" players, why not play them a serious match with improvised rules? It's great practice and makes every match...




Friday, June 17, 2011 - 13:14
June 17, 2011

Use it or lose it

Yes, I'm talking to you, the aging table tennis player reading this article. Or the young but lazy one. You both have the ability to move when you play, but you don't do it enough. Sure, you gradually slow down as you age, and so many older players become more backhand-oriented rather than attacking with their forehand, which takes more footwork. Sure, younger players may find that if they use less footwork and simply stand at the table, they won't get caught out of position. Both of these are defensible positions. But guess what? The loss of footwork begins with a single non-use of your footwork. The more you don't use footwork, the faster you lose it, which gives you more reason not to use it, which accelerates the loss of footwork, which . . . you get the idea.

It's not just footwork. When I was younger, I liked to counterloop off the bounce, or back up way off the table to counterloop. (Strangely, I was better at the two extremes.) Now that I'm older (read: stiffer and slower), these shots are harder to pull off. So it'd be best to stop using them, right? Then they'd become even harder to...




Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 12:23
June 16, 2011

The unconventional path

If your goal is to challenge the best players in the world, then you want to play the best possible style. But for anything less, almost any style will do. One of the ironies of coaching is that if certain styles have a 1% advantage over another, then nearly 100% of students are taught those styles. After all, who wants to be the coach that teaches someone an "inferior" style? And so very few new players are taught to be choppers, long pips blockers, pips-out penholders, hardbatters, the Seemiller (or American) grip, and so on. These aren't considered the "best" styles, and so almost nobody teaches or learns them. Is there a place for these styles?

One of the kids I coach discovered chopping just yesterday. He has a decent forehand, but isn't that strong of an attacker yet. He has a good backhand push, and is now learning to push on the forehand. Obviously, it's very early in his game development. But once he learned what a chop was, he wanted to learn to do it. It was his first time, and his chops weren't very heavy and they popped up, but he had fun. Conventionally, you don...




Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 12:57
June 15, 2011

Supernova or brightly burning star for many years?

The next time you enviously watch some kid who's improving at about 300 rating points per year, here's something to think about. The younger you start, the better your ultimate potential because the brain simply learns better at younger ages. However - while those of you who started late may never reach the crowning glory of some kid who started at age 7 with a professional coach, you may have something as good or better: a longer, more enjoyable journey. And don't they say it's not the destination but the journey that counts? Sure, that kid might become a U.S. team member by age 20. But by age 25 he's already pretty much at his peak. Meanwhile, while you may never make the U.S. team, you can keep improving for many, many years. The physical demands of table tennis at the higher levels are just too high to really improve much past age 30 or so, but at the more mortal levels, experience and training can more than make up for the gradual physical decline. Plus, the demands of high-level table tennis are such that you really need to train hard to keep it up; at lower levels, you can...




Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 13:09
June 14, 2011

"Let go, Have fun"

One of the toughest things to do in table tennis (or any skill sport) is to do exactly what the heading says - "Let go, Have fun." In a split-second skill sport like table tennis, you can't consciously control each shot; it's all instinctive. Yet that's exactly what one does when they can't relax. And so all their instincts go out the window, and suddenly they can't make a shot. Afterwards, they wonder why.

USA Women's Champion Arial Hsing, just 15 years old, exemplifies the ability to "Let go, Have fun." It is that ability (along with huge amounts of training, great coaching, experience, etc. - details!) that make her a champion. And how did she learn to do this? During her up-and-coming years, guess what she always wrote on her arm before a tournament? Here she is, about four years ago, at age 11. Yes, that's "Let go, Have fun!" written on her arm. (I have a larger version on my computer so I can zoom in and verify the words, including the exclamation mark at the end.)

Players who...




Monday, June 13, 2011 - 13:20
June 13, 2011

Over 450 Reads

On Friday we set a new record for most reads - over 450. (We've been averaging over 200 for a while.) I hope people are enjoying the blog - it's the first thing I do each morning, Mon-Fri. I usually keep notes throughout the day on interesting topics, and when morning comes, it's not a matter of what to write about; it's a matter of choosing which of the many items to write about. This morning I have eleven different topics to choose from. Some I'll write about now; the rest I'll cut & paste to tomorrow's blog, and then, along with whatever topics come to mind today, I'll choose that day's topics.

Tip of the Week: Playing the Fisher

This week's Tip of the Week is on Playing the Fisher. Special thanks to Deriderj, who raised this question on the forum. Now you too can learn how to play the fisher, the player who backs up and softly and defensively topspins everything back a few feet over the net. His shots are not quite lobbing, not quite...




Friday, June 10, 2011 - 12:32
June 10, 2011

What do you know, and when did you know it?

Sometimes, as an experienced table tennis player and coach, I watch newer, younger players as they move up the rankings, and think, "If only they knew what I know." So much of table tennis is "getting it," i.e. knowing how to win - and there are all sorts of ways to doing this. But they all come from learning the frame of mind that allows you to pick through the fog of war (I mean match play) and find a way to win, both in developing your game (strategic development) and tactically (tactical development). This is probably true of most experienced players, at least those who have also gotten through the "learn how to win" barrier.

How do you learn how to win? Some do it by consciously being aware of what wins and what doesn't, and working toward maximizing the type of play that wins, both in strategic development by practicing those techniques that win when developing their game, and tactical development as they learn to use these winning techniques. Others do this instinctively - especially the tactical part - never really "knowing" what they are doing,...